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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Meet the Family Advisory Committee

By: Patrick Callan

CAMH Family Advisory Committee (FAC) member Vivien Cappe started her journey with CAMH five years ago when her 22-year-old son was diagnosed with mental health and addictions problems.

Vivien and her family have always been very involved in supporting him through assessments and treatments over the years. This led to her establishing many relationships with CAMH clinicians and eventually becoming one of the founding members of the FAC, which officially launched in January.

“I knew that I wanted to be part of this new initiative as I felt it was long overdue,” says Vivien. “I hope I can contribute to building better relationships with family members and the CAMH team.”

CAMH FAC member Vivien Cappe
CAMH FAC member Vivien Cappe hopes to learn about all the positive experiences and challenges clinicians and staff have had with family members.

The FAC is a partnership between CAMH and family members affected by a loved one’s mental illness, including addictions. It serves an advisory role within CAMH’s Office of Family Engagement, which recognizes and celebrates the contribution of families.

The FAC consists of 10 family member volunteers (Family Co-Chair Bryn MacPherson, Alan Brewer, Vivien Cappe, Susan Conway, Robert Burns, Mara Haase, Pauline Lefebvre Hinton, Gilda Martens, and Shala Pezeshkzad) and two CAMH staff (CAMH Co-Chair Miriam McCann and Social Worker Jessica Morgan Bush) who advocate for patient/client- and family-centred care.

FAC member Susan Conway, whose son has been a client at the Slaight Centre for the past two and a half years, says she’s seen firsthand how helpful it can be when family are involved.

“I feel a part of my son’s team. This has helped him receive better care, and knowing we are contributing in a positive way has helped our family cope better as well,” she says. “When someone is very unwell, it is often very difficult for them to articulate the issues they are having. Those closest to you are there on a day-to-day basis and can help the care team understand what is going on.”

FAC member Susan Conway
FAC member Susan Conway says family engagement helps everyone involved cope better.

Miriam McCann, Advanced Practice Clinical Leader, Office of Family Engagement, says the FAC is part of CAMH’s commitment to family engagement and a direct response to family feedback.

“The committee was recruited through a broad call for interest within CAMH and in the community. Members were interviewed and there was a selection process. Particular care was taken to ensure diversity and a broad range of experience of family members,” she says.

The FAC formed in July 2017 and started holding monthly meetings in August. Since then, it has become an integral part of the recovery process at CAMH. Committee members are now involved in all levels of the hospital, including the Patient Engagement Working Group, Program Quality Councils and Working groups, as well as special projects such as Patient Oriented Discharge Summary (PODS).

Externally, the FAC sits on the Ontario Family Caregiver Advisory Network (OFCAN) – an advisory committee that connects groups in Ontario who support family caregivers of people with mental health and addiction issues. 

“Families want to be part of the team. If we listen to the voices of families we will hear invaluable information. We will learn another side to the client’s life,” says Vivien. “Every piece that makes up a client’s life is important and needs to be connected. Family is a huge piece of that puzzle and needs to be heard.”

Family Advisory Committee
The Family Advisory Committee is a partnership between CAMH staff and family members affected by a loved one’s mental illness, including addictions. It consists of 10 family member volunteers and two CAMH staff who advocate for patient/client- and family-centred care.

For Vivien, two words come to mind when she thinks of her experience with CAMH – journey and navigation.

“We all want to learn how to navigate the system so that our journey will not only be successful but also rewarding. At times there are divides between staff and family, and I believe it is one of the jobs of FAC to be a bridge that brings the two sides together,” she says.

Susan says as someone who has worked in health care for many years, she found it was natural to advocate for her son and work with his care team, but she realizes this isn’t so easy for other families. “I would like to find ways to ensure that families understand how to best advocate for their loved ones and collaborate with their care teams,” she says.

As the FAC finalizes its work plan for the coming year, Vivien hopes she’ll be able to have open and honest dialogue with senior leadership across CAMH.

“I hope that my voice will always carry a tone of respect and admiration when I share thoughts with all involved in helping clients have happy and hopeful lives,” she says.

Miriam says the long-term goal of the FAC is that families at CAMH will be partners in client/patient’s recovery journey and supported in an integrated experience of care.

“They will be embraced and actively engaged at all levels of the hospital,” she says.

Published on February 16, 2018.
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